By Emily Williams
The Fourth of July is a particularly special time of year for the National Society of the Daughters of the American Revolution.
The organization was founded in 1890 and seeks to support historical preservation, promote education and encourage patriotic practices. One way they preserve the history of the United States is by celebrating and remembering the patriots who made the American Revolution a success.
To become a member of the DAR, one must trace her genealogy to a patriot of the Revolutionary War. Those patriots are the men, and occasionally women, who fought for freedom from Great Britain, served in government, or took notable strides to support the birth of the country from the beginning of the revolution in 1775 to 1783, when the British troops retreated from New York.
According to the chapter regent of the Lily of the Cahaba chapter of the DAR, Kaye Sutley, a number of members have extensively researched their ancestors to learn more about their lives and service to country.
Among the Zebadiahs and Tobiases on the list of patriots linked to members of the Lily of the Cahaba chapter, based in Hoover, are fewer than a handful of women.
“We are always very excited when we find a female patriot,” said Sutley.
One such female patriot, Rebecca Parks Caldwell, is on the family trees of two of the chapter members, Tracy Pflaum and Mary Woodard.
Rebecca’s life story was submitted to the DAR in 1974 by Ann Roy and showcases a woman of immense strength in a time of transition and war.
Born in 1707 in Ireland, she was married at the age of 16 to a man 36 years her senior, John Walkup, who passed away a mere four months after their wedding. Left penniless and childless, Rebecca remarried in 1724 to William Caldwell. During the course of their marriage, the couple relocated to the Americas, settling in Pennsylvania and then Virginia. Throughout the years leading up to her second husband’s death in 1761, she gave birth to four sons and six daughters.
Over the course of the next decade, Rebecca and her children relocated to South Carolina, where they were living when the Revolutionary War began in 1775.
A British loyalist, or Tory, by the name of William “Bloody Bill” Cunningham soon swept through the county where the Caldwells lived. At the time, an outspoken patriot named James Creswell, who was known to be hostile to Tories, was staying at the Caldwell home.
As Cunningham and his army neared her home, Caldwell came up with a plan to save Creswell, who later became a colonel and fought for what would become the United States of America.
She had her daughter Elizabeth go into hiding and dressed Creswell in her clothing. As Tories looked on, Caldwell called for a horse and called out to the disguised Creswell as if he was her daughter. They then rode away, and Creswell was able to flee before the Tories searched the Caldwell home and found Elizabeth hiding.
Each of Caldwell’s sons served in the Revolutionary War, with one losing his life, killed by Bloody Bill Cunningham.
“Rebecca’s courage, tenacity and devotion to her family, as well as her selflessness and quick thinking are most inspiring. Rebecca is the perfect example that American patriots come in various forms and serve our country in different ways,” said Pflaum, Rebecca’s fifth great-granddaughter.
Having grown up with a solid sense of patriotism, Woodard said she was thrilled to learn that she is related to a female patriot.
“I had always felt that I had come from a very long line of strong women,” Woodard said. “When I found out about Rebecca, it affirmed what I had always felt to be true.”
Related to the patriot by way of Caldwell’s son James, Woodard has found that a sense of patriotism and a drive to serve the United States has been passed down through the centuries. Her father and his brothers served in World War II, her son served in Afghanistan, and her grandson served in Iraq.